Premier Alan Winde on presidential request for consultation on National State of Disaster

Statement by Premier Alan Winde on the National State of Disaster

“Is there a roadmap to end the National State of Disaster?”

On Thursday last week, I wrote to President Cyril Ramaphosa to request a consultation with provinces ahead of any extension of the National State of Disaster, now expected this Friday.

I also requested transparency on the National Government’s proposed roadmap to end this disaster. We cannot have this declaration forever, and the public, and especially the economy, need certainty about what the government’s plans are to end it and by when.

I have yet to hear back from the Presidency on this meeting, and I am increasingly concerned that the National Government has not yet applied its mind to what such a roadmap will look like.

It is of great importance that we use this time now to have these discussions and put in place the systems that will enable the future management of the virus, without having to rely on what is an extreme piece of legislation that has very severe consequences on our future recovery and job creation.

It is only reasonable to expect that such a plan to terminate the declaration exists, based on expert advice, with clear markers, including vaccination coverage, and the empowerment of provincial and local governments to respond in future.

The Western Cape has a five-point plan, which we believe is the framework needed to save both lives and jobs in the Western Cape and the country.

1. We must end the National State of Disaster to grow the economy and create jobs.

2. We must enable Provincial and Local Government responses through an established traffic-light warning system, based on pre-determined measures of health platform capacity. This will enable provincial, differentiated approaches in the future based on a provincial government’s capacity to respond to increased pressures.

3. We must maintain healthcare capacity by increasing budget allocations to Provincial Governments. This will enable maintenance of standby field hospital capacity, healthcare worker capacity and oxygen capacity should it be required in the future.

4. We must empower people by continuing with behaviour change campaigns that provide knowledge on non-pharmaceutical safety practices. Residents must be given the agency to protect themselves and others.

5. We must increase vaccinations through more pop-up and satellite vaccination sites, which work better by improving convenience and access. This approach should be supported by the National Government.

My office will be following up on my correspondence with the Presidency, which we believe is urgent and important given the expected extension of the declaration on Friday.

Source: Government of South Africa

Algeria court jails brother of deposed president Bouteflika

ALGIERS— The powerful younger brother of deposed late Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika was sentenced to two years in prison for “obstructing the course of justice”, the official APS news agency reported.

President Bouteflika was forced to resign in the face of mass protests against his bid for a fifth term in office in 2019, and died in September aged 84.

His departure was followed by a string of prosecutions against senior members of his inner circle, most prominently his brother Said who had been seen as the real power behind the throne after the longtime ruler suffered a stroke in 2013.

The prosecution had called for seven years’ jail for Said, who was charged with other former officials for “abuse of office”, “inciting the falsification of official documents”, “obstruction of justice” and “contempt of court”.

The main accused at the Tuesday trial in Dar El Beida, east of Algiers, was former justice minister Tayeb Louh.

He was handed six years in prison while tycoon Ali Haddad was sentenced to two years, APS said. Both were close to the former president.

Ex-inspector general of the ministry of justice Tayeb Belhachemi was also sentenced to two years in prison.

The court acquitted six other defendants.

Said Bouteflika, 63, was arrested in May 2019 and sentenced to 15 years for “plotting against the state and the army” during the final days of his brother’s rule.

On Jan 2, he was acquitted of those charges by a military appeals court, but was handed to a civil court to face trial on corruption charges.


Ten Villagers Killed in Mosque Attack in Western Niger

Suspected jihadis killed 10 villagers in an attack on a mosque earlier this week in western Niger’s Tillaberi region, local sources said Wednesday.

The attack on Monday occurred in the village of Abankor in the tri-border region where Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso meet.

“The attackers arrived on motorbikes during evening prayers and the victims were in the mosque when they were killed,” an official in Banibangou city told AFP.

A resident of the neighboring town of Tondiwindi confirmed the attack and the death toll.

On local radio Studio Kalangou, an Abankor resident said one person was injured in addition to the 10 dead, adding that the attack occurred in the early evening.

Since the start of the year, attacks by suspected jihadis have skyrocketed in the area around Banibangou and nearby towns in the Tillaberi region.

The flashpoint area is frequently targeted by the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara and the al-Qaida-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims with deadly attacks against civilians and soldiers.

Early this month the United Nations warned that the Tillaberi region was facing a “major food crisis,” with almost 600,000 people exposed to food insecurity.

“Insecurity and recurrent attacks by suspected elements of non-state armed groups targeting farmers and civilians will have serious repercussions this year on the already precarious food situation,” the U.N. Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs office warned in a report sent to AFP.

Source: Voice of America

U.S., Allies Seek Ways To Combat Ransomware As Online Attacks Proliferate

The United States is rallying dozens of allies and partners at a two-day virtual conference to discuss ways to combat ransomware as online attacks proliferate, hurting businesses and undermining national security.

Representatives of 30 countries from Europe, the Middle East, Africa, South America, and Asia will join Biden administration officials at the conference on October 13-14 to consider how to disrupt the ransomware ecosystem, including making it harder to use cryptocurrency as a means of payment.

The meeting — whose participants include representatives from Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Romania — will also focus on how to prosecute cybercriminals and how to deal with nation-states that fail to tackle cybergangs operating inside their borders.

The Biden administration has made fighting ransomware a top priority as the number and severity of cases has surged in recent years, impacting a wide array of industries from retail and food to health care and critical infrastructure.

Ransomware payments globally topped $400 million last year, the White House said.

Frank Cilluffo, the director of Auburn University’s McCrary Institute for Cyber and Critical Infrastructure Security and a government adviser, told RFE/RL that ransomware has become a transnational issue which requires some transnational solutions.

“We’re going to need to be able to work with like-minded allies to start addressing this challenge in earnest and collectively applying some pressure on countries that are turning a blind eye to some of this,” Cilluffo said. “I’m not sure we’re going to get to the goal on all that (at the conference) but you need to start the conversation.”

In two high-profile cases earlier this year, cybergangs believed to be based in Russia disrupted the operations of a major U.S. pipeline operator as well as a large meat packing company. Moscow has denied allegations of cyberattacks on Western countries.

Representatives from Russia were not invited to the conference, a senior administration official told reporters on October 12, adding that Washington and Moscow recently set up a high-level, bilateral dialogue on cybersecurity.

President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed at their June summit in Geneva to relaunch talks about cyberattacks. Biden called on Putin to tackle cybercriminals operating from inside Russia.

The senior official said that the United States has “seen some steps by the Russian government” since the talks began in the summer but declined to say what they were.

The official said the October 13-14 conference would be the first in a series on the topic and did not rule out that Russia could be invited in the future.

The acceptance of cryptocurrencies and the partial anonymity they offer has helped fuel the growth of ransomware.

Herbert Lin, a senior research scholar for cyber policy and security at Stanford University, told RFE/RL that conference participants need to focus on how to interfere with cryptocurrency payments.

Ransomware will become less attractive if cybercriminals can’t turn the cryptocurrency payments into cash, he said.

“The more countries involved in the discussion, the better but in the end you want to have global controls on cryptocurrency redemption,” he said.

The Treasury Department last month imposed sanctions on a cryptocurrency exchange for the first time as it seeks to crack down on the use of digital currencies in ransomware attacks. The department said about 40 percent of the transactions at Suex, which operates in Russia, involves illicit activities. The new sanctions will block all trades involving Suex and U.S. entities.

Cilluffo also said the conference needs to draw attention to the problem of servers that host malware and black market websites.

Along with cryptocurrencies, such servers are key elements in the ransomware ecosystem and many are located in East European countries.

“The big issue that I’d like to see coming out of this is…putting a little bit of pressure or at least raising of awareness of what these service providers and services are offering,” he said.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

African tourism body honors Tanzania’s president for promoting the sector

ARUSHA (Tanzania)— The African Tourism Board (ATB) has honoured Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan with the Continental Tourism Award for her contribution to the country’s tourism sector.

ATB, mandated to promote and facilitate tourism growth and development across the continent, said it was impressed by President Hassan’s unwavering commitment to the promotion of tourism in Tanzania.

Speaking at the opening of the first East African Community (EAC) regional tourism expo (EARTE) in the northern city of Arusha, Cuthbert Ncube, the ATB Executive Chairman, said the Tanzanian leader ensured that the tourism industry rebounded amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tanzania becomes the first country within the EAC region to host the East African regional tourism expo. The expo aims at creating awareness on tourism investment opportunities and promoting EAC as a single tourism destination amid the COVID-19 pandemic.